The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

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Working throughout the night to keep STJ clean

Between the hours of 10 p.m. and 5:30 in the morning, the work of most University students, faculty and administrators has ended. But there are a select few who work behind the scenes whose work is just beginning.

The members of the night shift facilities staff often aren’t visible to majority of the University community, but their work is evident from clean classrooms to freshly buffed floors.

Kenneth Smith, night shift manager for the department of facilities, is in charge of supervising the 36 workers tasked with cleaning all the buildings on campus.

He refers to the workers of the night crew as the “behind the scenes crew,” who typically aren’t seen but “deserve all the recognition they can get.”

“The night shift is when we do all the cleaning,” he said. “That’s when everything is done because during the day, you can’t strip and wax, you can’t shampoo, you can’t do any mopping because the buildings are full of students. At night is when we get all the things that the students don’t know how the building gets cleaned, that’s when it gets done.”

According to Brij Anand, vice president of Facilities, the staff works seven days a week and work in three shifts, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. and 10 p.m. to 5:30 a.m.

He said the average worker makes $20 an hour and that there are 130 members in total.

“I would say the most important thing for us is to serve the student population,” Anand said. “They need to make sure that in so doing they are keeping the facilities as appealing as they can be to satisfy the academic and students needs.”

At the beginning of the night, workers report to the ROTC building where they are given their nightly assignments.

In addition, the staff may receive work orders for specific tasks. Smith said the crew receives 10 to 20 orders a night.

Sometimes, the work orders can range from standard duties to peculiar ones. On a recent shift, one of the work orders read “take the glue trap from the carpet.”

“We have mice in some buildings here,” explains Herman Moy, a foreman and one of Smith’s lieutenants. “So they put a glue trap on the floor, somebody steps on it, it flips over and the glue trap gets on the carpet. So I have to figure out a way to get it out.”

On Mondays, the crew gets new supplies to last them for the upcoming week, like garbage bags, bleach and gloves.

Smith said once the previous shift wraps up, the night crew comes in and finishes the work the last group did not get to and cleans the rest of the building.

“We want to make sure each building
maintains a high level of cleanliness,” he said. “So sometimes the work is repetitive or redundant but we just want to make sure everything gets done.”

Some workers, like Carol Thomas and Maria Ibarra, who have been with the University for 18 and 21 years, respectively, said as the number of buildings on campus has increased, the number of facility workers on the night shift have decreased.

Thomas, who works cleaning the Law School, said when she first started there were 66 members of the night crew staff and over time that number has gone down to 36.

Ibarra said in Sullivan Hall, where she works, there used to be five people assigned to the building. Today, there are only two.

She said she has found it to be a “blessing” to be with the University for so long.

“As long as I have a job, I am happy,” she said.

Rajesh Tahaloo said when he got hired two and a half years ago, he felt like he was one of the “lucky ones”.

“The job is easy and everyone is nice,” he said. “No one yells at you, unless you really mess up at a job and then you get yelled at. But I haven’t messed up.”

Smith said a personable managing style is very important in keeping the crew’s morale high.

“Herman and I, we try to find simple solutions for problems people might incur,” he said. “When we see people come in, we laugh with them, we joke with them. We don’t believe in standing over and hitting them with the belt. We’d rather speak with people and ask them to do certain things and get things done in a certain way.”

Despite the workers being responsible for their floors, Smith emphasizes that the work they do is a team effort.

“I expect everyone to work together,” he said. “There is no ‘my job, your job’. We’re all here to work together because there is one objective, to clean the facility.

Moy said the staff is tight-knit and has embraced the team aspect.

“We have a pretty happy crew over here,” he said. “We don’t have that much trouble here, everyone’s happy. If someone retires, I like to have a party for them, that’s how we get together. It’s like a big family.”

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